Needing to win the Shell Houston Open to receive his first Masters invitation, Wagner did just that Sunday in Humble, Texas. The 28-year-old Texas native closed with a 1-under-par 71 to post a two-stroke victory at Redstone Golf Club's Championship Course.
While Wagner had to be thrilled with the $1 million check and his first career PGA Tour victory, he said just the opportunity to compete for a Green Jacket topped the list.
"Nothing really has sunk in yet," Wagner told reporters. "There are so many benefits to winning out here, and the Masters is great. I guess I'll be going to the Mercedes Championship next year, which is also great - just the feeling of accomplishment. This is something I've wanted to do my entire life, to win at the highest level of golf."
Wagner also earned 4,500 FedEx Cup points to move from No. 188 to No. 18 in the standings with 4,680 points. Tiger Woods leads with 14,775 points.
Wagner, who finished at 16-under 272, began the tournament in spectacular fashion, tying the course record and sharing the first-round lead with Adam Scott. He shot 69 on Friday and Saturday to continue to share the top spot on the leaderboard.
Thanks to his strong start, Wagner was able to hold off Geoff Ogilvy, who closed with a 68 to tie for second with Chad Campbell at 14 under. Billy Mayfair, who was making his 600th career PGA Tour start, and Fred Couples each shot 6 under in the final round to tie for fourth at 13 under.
"It was an incredible week from start to finish and I played great all week," said Wagner, whose previous best finish was a second-place effort at the 2007 Viking Classic. "It was very high pressure the last two days and I don't know how I got through it, but I thought I was going to get sick on myself out there a couple times."
Wagner admitted he had difficulty staying calm on several occasions. However, he said caddie Steve Hale encouraged him to take deep breaths to settle him down during the final round.
One notable absence at Augusta will be Davis Love III, who needed to win to qualify for the Masters, but finished 26th at 5 under and ended the longest string of consecutive active major tournament appearances at 70. Phil Mickelson, who ended tied for 23rd at 6 under, now owns the longest streak of major starts at 55.
"I certainly wanted to play better, wanted to have a much better finish and hopefully a chance to win and contend," Mickelson told reporters. "So I was disappointed in that, but it gave me an opportunity to identify what areas of my game are weak heading into the Masters and where I need to spend time the next three days."
Certainly, no one will be looking forward to the Masters more than Wagner.
"I have nothing to lose next week," Wagner said. "I don't care if I shoot 90 both days and miss the cut. I'm so excited to be there and it's just a dream come true."
April 7, 2008
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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